Echoing The Sentiments Of Many (1 August 1975)
I join the greetings to Mrs Julia Phillips, who has just retired from the Bletchley bench of magistrates on reaching the age limit of 70.
She is best known to myself and other old stagers under the name of her first husband, the late Mr Jim Ramsbotham, for it was as Mrs Julia Ramsbotham that she graced the chair of the old Bletchley urban council in 1960 and 1961.
Mrs Phillips was not Bletchley’s first woman councillor. That honour had been held by Fanny Lady Leon. But she was the first woman to become chairman of the council and, in fact, the only one.
She was certainly regarded as “something of a novelty,” but she was much more than that, for there was never a chairman more deserving – man or woman.
I remember her most as a doughty fighter for hospital facilities in the town, more particularly for the establishment of a maternity home – or “unit,” to use present-day jargon.
The struggle for hospital facilities and for a hospital in Bletchley has been going on for 28 years to my knowledge. The trouble was that neither the urban council nor the county council had any power in the matter. They could only make representations to the real holders of power, the Oxford Regional Hospital Board. This they frequently did in support of popular protests and petitions. But it was mostly in vain.
All Bletchley was able to win was firstly the maternity home and after a few more years the outpatients’ clinic.
The first setback for Bletchley came shortly after the war, when Westbury, at Newport Pagnell, was selected as the maternity home for North Bucks.
Other premises in Bletchley had been offered. They included the older part of the present Holne Chase school and the large house known as The Elmers, near the entrance gate to St. Mary’s Church, but both were turned down as unsuitable.
Of Mrs Phillips’ outside duties as council chairman, one I remember is her pulling the first pint to mark the opening of Bletchley’s first new post-war public house.
This was The Satellite, at the junction of Whaddon Way and the diverted Tattenhoe Lane. For some time afterwards it was more popularly known as “The Sputnik” from its inn sign, which depicts the Russian space satellite of that name – the first ever to go into orbit.
The Ramsbothams originally came from Todmorden, a small industrial town in a valley on the old Lancashire-Yorkshire border. Mrs Phillips’ daughter married a doctor. He acquired or set up in practice at Todmorden and they were delighted to discover they were in the same property that had been occupied by the Ramsbothams of several generations previously.
Mr Phillips is a local boy come back home, so to speak. He was a junior on the old North Bucks Times at Fenny, before he went on to build up a printing business in London.
Incidentally, I notice that Mrs Phillips says: “I have seen a lot of changes in the old town, but even though I was on the council that decided on a lot of the changes I think I preferred the old Bletchley. It was bound to expand in its own given time.”
Her sentiment will be echoed by many, myself included. However, she does recognise that expansion was bound to come some time.
And now to a sadder note on another I had known all my time in Bletchley. I refer, of course, to Mr Dick Goodman, who died so tragically while cycling along a local by-lane – to the shock and dismay of all who knew him.
On the whole, British amateur road-racing cyclists have little to show for their visits to the Continent. It was different with Dick. He won races there against all-comers both in partnership with his still-older buddy, Charlie Cole, in veterans’ events, and with his son “Goz,” in races for fathers and sons.
I reckon his biggest disappointments must have been when “Goz” was finally not selected for the British cycling team in the Olympic Games. Many, including people outside this district, thought he should have been chosen. Certainly he was the nearest thing to an Olympiad this neighbourhood has had since the days of Olympic runner, Charles Constable.
I guess that Dick himself, crew-cut head thrust forward over handlebars, was the fittest 69-year-old hereabouts. Following his retirement from the Co-op’s Newton Road butchery shop, he seemed almost to live on his bike.
Just two or three weeks before his death I was driving to Stoke Mandeville with a passenger when we saw his familiar figure pedalling ahead. I said: “He looks like he could go on until he’s 90.”
And now, suddenly, it is all over . . .